Sinn Féin Funds Bill, 1947—Committee Stage (Resumed)—(Section 10).

Deputy Moran was speaking last night on this section when progress was reported, but I do not think we need concern ourselves with Deputy Moran's contribution. I would like to refer to the amazing speech which was made by the Taoiseach on this section. He gave utterance to what appear to me, as an ordinary layman, to be somewhat extraordinary statements, statements one could conceive coming only from the Taoiseach. If those statements are the only justification that he has for introducing what he described as a unique Bill, then I think Deputies on all sides of the House and, indeed, the people throughout the country, have reason to fear the continuance in office of a man who is capable of making such statements as we listened to last night.

The Taoiseach has on his lips, perhaps more often than any other person in the country, the word "democracy", and he talks, perhaps more often than any other person, about our free democratic institutions; but the fact is that consistently, over a long period, he has been nibbling away at the foundations of every democratic institution in this State. Deputies may smile at that, but it is quite true, and quite a number of actions by the Taoiseach in that direction can be pointed to. This is, as Deputy Davin said last night, an open, brazen, deliberate attempt to set aside the courts of justice of this country. The Taoiseach started on this section last night by telling the House that if he could be convinced that this Bill was outraging a fundamental principle, then he would consider what could be done. Just listen to that, coming from the Taoiseach. Has anybody, inside or outside the House, ever convinced the Taoiseach of anything by argument? Never.

He talked complainingly that he was not getting from the Opposition that co-operation that he desired; that if only he got that co-operation which he so ardently desires, there would be no necessity for this debate at all. We all know the Taoiseach's conception of co-operation. His conception is, of course, that everybody should say "yes" when he says "yes". That has been the fundamental cause of all the trouble in this country for a quarter of a century. The Taoiseach is always right. Whether he is in a minority or a majority he is right, and has always claimed so. He talks now as firmly about the rights of the majority as he formerly talked about the rights of the minority; but he is not prepared to concede, now that he is in the majority, to the minority, what he always claimed when he was in a minority.

Co-operation! Is not the real reason why we are faced with this Bill the fact that the Taoiseach has never co-operated with anybody in this country? The Taoiseach last night referred to the fact that this organisation was split on two occasions. Was not the split on each of these occasions due to the fact that he himself refused to line-up with the majority? However, I would not refer to that if the Taoiseach himself had not brought it in last night.

Of course, it is not accurate either.

It is not accurate?

Faith it is, and it is down in history. Again the Taoiseach —I am quoting from the Taoiseach's own mouthpiece; he will hardly question that as he usually questions every quotation given in this House—said:

"What I mean is known to everybody, that our courts are fundamentally courts of law. They are constrained to give their judgment, not in regard to what might be looked on as absolutely fundamental right, but in accordance with the law as set down by the Legislature, with precedent of the common law."

Is their anything wrong with the position that a legal issue affecting any citizen or organisation should be dealt with by the courts of justice in accordance with the law passed by this House? The Taoiseach goes on:

"I say that we are here the court of equity in this matter, the fundamental court of equity and that what I am striving for here is that substantial justice should be done as against formal justice."

The Taoiseach is to be the judge. It is not Dáil Éireann that is going to decide on this matter; it is Eamon de Valera as head of the Government. Every single member of this House who is not a tied member of the Fianna Fáil Party is against this measure. Every member who is free to raise his voice against the measure has raised his voice against it. This is not a question of Dáil Éireann versus the courts of justice. It is a question of the head of the Government as against the representatives of at least 50 per cent. of the people of this country. The Taoiseach tried to make the plea that the fact that he was leader of the majority Party entitled him to say that he spoke for the majority of the people of this country. The Taoiseach does not represent the majority of the people of the country; he did not get the confidence of the majority of the people of the country. The people who did get the confidence of the majority of the people, all those who are ranged here in opposition to the Government, are speaking with one voice against this outrage against the Constitution and the constitutional rights of the citizens of this country.

We get the mentality behind this Bill as we go on. "The courts," the Taoiseach said, "we know, cannot go beyond the law and a judge is not at liberty to go absolutely beyond the law." We thank God for that. That is our protection, that is the protection of every citizen of this country whether he lives in a hovel or a mansion. That is the fundamental thing the Taoiseach has set out in his Bill completely to set aside. It has been said here by many Deputies that they know nothing about the facts of this case. I can say the same. Like other Deputies who have spoken from this side of the House, I am not concerned with the merits of the case. It is not a question of £28,000 or £8,000. I do not care a hoot whether it is 28 pence or £28,000,000 that is involved. That should not be the concern of this House. The concern of this House should be the preservation of our courts and the confidence of our people in those courts. In one breath last night the Taoiseach said that this was a unique Bill and a few moments before he said that this is not the first time we have had this sort of Bill. Of course it is not, and that is what makes us so much afraid. Every time we get a Bill of this type we are told that it is brought in only because there are some rather unusual features or some unusual points to be met. But when a person in power wants to set aside any court, he can always find unusual matters in the particular matter in which he wants to get away from the court. This Bill is not aimed against Mrs. Buckley and J.J. O'Kelly or whoever else claims these funds on behalf of Sinn Féin. This Bill is aimed against every citizen of this country. It is not a question of keeping the Sinn Féin funds, whatever the amount may be, away from the people who are claiming them. This Bill is taking law, and the protection of the law, not money, away from the citizens of this country.

We are engaged here on a matter that is not our business. It is not our job; it is not our duty. I could not conceive a worse form of tribunal to decide the justice of anything than this House. The duty of this House is to consider and pass legislation and to leave the administration, the interpretation and the carrying out of that legislation for the trained lawyers who have been appointed by the people of this country to do that job. I said the Taoiseach is always right, according to himself. One of the tragedies of the matter and indeed of many matters in this House—we have had this over and over again on various motions and various Bills—is that for some reason the Taoiseach has satisfied himself that he knows more about law than either the judges or the lawyers who have given a lifetime of study and practice to it. On more than one occasion, on pure points of law, he got up in this House and challenged some of the most eminent lawyers we have in this country. I know from experience that the head of the Government is, to use an adjective which he applied to this Bill, a rather unique person himself. Apparently when he convinces himself that any particular matter is right he immediately convinces himself that everybody in this country agrees with him. He claimed last night that he had not a shadow of doubt that the people of this country would understand perfectly what he was doing and would agree with him entirely that it was right. This is not the first time he claimed that. He has been claiming that all the time. The most recent occasion on which he claimed it was in regard to cosmic physics. He told us about 90 per cent. of the people agreed with him about cosmic physics. That is a dangerous mentality for this country.

As the proceedings last night were closing, I put a certain view to the Government, but there was no time for the Taoiseach to reply to the request I made to him before the House adjourned. I hold that the Government in this Dáil of ours holds office by a title as good as, or better than, that of any other democratic government in the world. There never was a parliamentary assembly chosen at a freer election than this Assembly. There never was less doubt that a democratic government commanded the support of the majority of the members of the sovereign legislature of the country it was supposed to govern. It is just on these grounds that I make a suggestion which I think is one of real importance and I think a ground upon which the Taoiseach might with perfect propriety dispose of this most difficult situation in which we now are.

He, not infrequently, when reaching the end of his patience, declares that the time for argument has now passed, and, if we cannot reach agreement, we must merely leave it to the determination of a vote and allow the will of a majority to prevail, and he delights to add: "That is the democratic way." I suggest that that is not the democratic way. The test of democracy is not how often the will of a majority prevails. The test of real democracy is how often the majority refuses to use its power to prevail because of its solicitude for the rights and convictions of the minority of their own fellow countrymen who are represented on the Opposition Benches of the Legislature to which we all belong. If there ever is a case when that quality of democracy can manifest itself, it is in the circumstances in which we now stand.

I do not think there can be any Deputy on the Government Benches, from the Taoiseach to the most junior amongst them, who will doubt that, rightly or wrongly, Deputies on this side feel that there is involved in this matter a grave and fundamental principle. That is what it means to us. From the Government point of view, this Bill is nothing but a piece of machinery expeditiously to dispose of a troublesome problem. It is not a matter of principle to the Government how this problem is resolved, provided the contingent rights of the beneficiaries of such a fund as might be created, if this Bill passed, are protected. We have, then, a situation in which, on one side of the balance, there is a substantial body of the representatives of the people feeling that something vital and fundamental is at stake and, on the other side, the merest device of expediency to achieve a particular purpose.

Is it not the duty of the responsible majority in a democratic State to say in such a situation: "Very well; we have the power, and we know we have the power, to make our view prevail, but we do not want to trample on the principles and deep convictions of the minority, for no better purpose than to serve our particular conception of what it is expedient to do in this particular instance." That is the very hall-mark and countersign of true democracy. There was no dictator in Europe who was not in a position to say that he exercised all his powers by the authority of an immense majority. It became the fashion for them to have majorities of 90 per cent. of the entire electorate, but the one thing none of them ever said, the one thing no head of an authoritarian régime has ever pretended, is that he had any respect for the fundamental beliefs of the minority. The very hall-mark of that system of government is that the minority may have no fundamental beliefs at all, and that it is the patriotic duty of every man and woman in the community to bow the knee before the majority.

Here, in Great Britain and in the United States of America, it has long been established that, however great the majority, certain rights remain inalienable in the minority and that good government consists of respecting these rights, while at the same time effectively maintaining the law. Is there a Deputy who, in his heart, would not be happy if the Taoiseach at this stage said: "I had not foreseen that this Bill would present such difficulties as it has. I do not understand the difficulties expressed by the Opposition, but, whether I do or not, I am satisfied they feel that fundamental things are involved. That being so, we will tear this Bill up and find some other way"? That is democracy, as I understand it.

I quite agree that if the majority seek to legislate upon what is to them a fundamental principle and find themselves in a head-on collision with the minority who also claim that a fundamental principle is involved, then, after argument and discussion, no one can deny that the majority have just as grave a duty to stand for what they believe in as the minority have to stand against it. Where the majority are concerned only for machinery and the minority for what to them is fundamental and of principle, democracy, as I understand it, demands that, in that case, the majority, well knowing that they have the power to insist, deliberately and voluntarily forbear. I do not deny that, in such a situation, they are entitled to expect, and would receive, a generous reaction of co-operative assistance to resolve the difficulty that requires surmounting. Such incidents help democracy to work and grow in any community. Such incidents make people understand anew how precious a thing democracy is. These are times when liberty and all that democracy means are much challenged throughout the world. It might be no harm in this quiet citadel of that system if so admirable an example of how it can be worked were given by a Government in control of an absolute majority, secured in the freest election that ever was held in a democratic State anywhere.

Subject to that, I want to add this: a great many Deputies will feel in regard to this whole business that Section 10, in taking this matter out of the courts, is really cutting a Gordian knot, that it ought to be done and an endless tangle of litigation brought to an end. They feel that that is the real object behind the section. To anyone familiar with the ordinary processes of the courts, such contention is so ludicrous and fantastic as to be unworthy of presentation. I know a case at present in the Probate Court affecting a woman who was a domestic servant in the house of an elderly bachelor. She came to me about the case. The bachelor died 12 years ago and the woman applied for her wages. Probate proceedings are still continuing — briskly. How I came to know about it is that, in special circumstances, the Attorney-General was required to appear. If the reason which is used to justify this procedure were to be carried to its logical conclusion, we should go into the Probate Court, stay the proceedings in that case, salvage whatever remains of the estate of that old bachelor, secure for the elderly woman, who is only seeking what she earned, what is due to her and distribute the rest amongst whomsoever we, in this House, thought it was fair and equitable to distribute it.

Mr. P. Burke

There is no comparison.

Our solicitude here surely is to preserve this fund so that it will be devoted to the kind of purpose to which a fund of the character of this Sinn Féin fund should go. Is not that our purpose? We do not want to spite Mrs. Buckley or to spite Sceilg. The Government's concern is that the money will not be dissipated, that it will be put in the hands of trustees who will use it for some purpose which old Sinn Féiners would think was a suitable purpose for the remnant of what was once their political fund—a very understandable desire. That is the main purpose of this Bill, as I understand it. This old working woman has a clear claim to her wages which nobody denies—an admitted claim. As a result of probate proceedings, it is impossible to pay out of the estate the moneys that are due to her.

As a result of a continuation of those probate proceedings, with application after application being made, there is every prospect of all the assets of the estate disappearing until, eventually, the proceedings will end for want of funds to continue them and this old woman will be done out of her due. If it is legitimate to take these proceedings out of the courts for the purpose of preserving the Sinn Féin fund which we, as a Parliament, could replace, if we wanted to do so, by vote, is it not infinitely more justifiable to go into the probate court and say: "Ten years is enough to settle any estate, and we are going to stop this business before you finally eat up this old lady's wages in addition to everything else her employer left"? No sensible man suggests that in the utterly exceptional case—the unforeseeable exception to the general rule of circumstances—in which the probate procedure is admittedly failing to do that which it was designed to do, we should tear the whole system up, because we all know that no human device is infallible and that, no matter how much you perfect it, no matter how flexible you leave it, sooner or later there will come up some extraordinary set of circumstances which will give rise to unbecoming and deplorable delay. It is only if those delays and abuses begin to spread through the whole system that the Legislature enters in. Even then, it does not enter in by taking one particular case and dealing with it. It enters in by dealing with the whole system, as was done in 1870 at the instance of Charles Dickens, when he described the famous case of Jarndyce versus Jarndyce. The Judicature Act was then passed in order to sweep away all the archaisms that had cluttered up the legal system and made it possible for assets to be dissipated and people to be denied the benefit of the law owing to the accumulation of archaic accretions which had gathered on the system down through the ages. Although at that time there were on the records of the courts very many cases in which scandalous dissipation of funds had taken place, nobody suggested that the Legislature should walk into the courts and take out of their seisin matters which they were then examining under the law. What they did was: they reviewed the law, they reformed the law and they declared that, at a future date, this new code of law would apply, not only to people like Mrs. Buckley and Sceilg but to everyone; and until the new code of law applied to everybody, it did not apply to such as Mrs. Buckley and Sceilg. They would get all the protection that every other citizen got, in whatever state the law may be at any given time. It is not because we are being asked here to break into the sanctuary of the courts and deprive two plaintiffs who are poor, insignificant, silly, possibly improvident, that my anxiety is bestirred. I do not pretend to be moved by a deep solicitude for my neighbours. It is bestirred because I apprehend that if this happens to them to-day it may happen to me to-morrow. That is true of every one of us in this House and of every citizen in the State.

On that note, I ask the Taoiseach to reflect. He knows that for us this is a matter of fundamental principle. On behalf of his own Party, he has declared that he sees no principle whatever involved. So be it. Assuming that we are both in good faith, how can he doubt the right course for a democrat? Let principle prevail. Tear up this Bill and let us all combine to find a way out of this difficulty that will safeguard what appears to us to be a fundamental point and that will ensure at the same time that no potential beneficiary of this fund should suffer.

Mr. P. Burke

Again I have to differ from Deputy Dillon. He was making a comparison a few moments ago of a private case and a national case. He also said there was a principle involved. Definitely, there is a principle involved and a principle involved on this side of the House also. Deputy Morrissey thought well of leaving the Bill completely.

What is that principle, on your side of the House?

Mr. Burke

I will deal with it—just give me time—and I will not interrupt the Deputy when he speaks. Deputy Morrissey thought of leaving the Bill completely and even forgot about it so far as to make an attack on the Taoiseach. We are a democratic Party here and anything that is done by the Taoiseach or by any member of the Government is done with the full cognisance of the whole Party, and we stand behind him. The principle that is involved here, which Deputy Coogan wanted to know, was and is—to go back again to the Sinn Féin Party——

Give us the principle.

Let the Deputy make is own speech.

He is going to define a principle.

That is his affair. Let him make his own speech.

Mr. Burke

The principle involved here, and the principle I stand over, is that this money was collected by the people and subscribed by the people—and I even go as far as to say that possibly Deputy Dillon subscribed some of it in his time.

Not a penny.

That is the whole trouble.

Sinn Féin is like a red rag to a bull to him.

Mr. Burke

To us, it was the first organisation responsible for giving us the measure of freedom we have here. In the passing of years, certain things happened. The funds were left in the custody of some trustees, who are now dead. After a while we found ourselves in the position that the parties which were at one time united differed as a result of some other things which I will not refer to now. We found those funds left in charge of three or four people. We find also that there is this principle involved. There is no Irishman to-day in this country but would like to see such funds taken by this Parliament and disbursed amongst the friends and relatives, possibly in poor circumstances, of those who made it possible for this State to exist.

Why was that not done long ago?

Mr. Burke

Just a moment. The Deputy can get up and roar all he likes in a few moments. We are told here that we are undemocratic. I admit that this is a unique affair.

Undemocratic.

Mr. Burke

It is not undemocratic. As a matter of fact, I would like to go even further with this. I would like to compare some of the statements made by the Opposition. Of course, it is very hard to deal with some of the Opposition statements, when the Leader of the Opposition welcomes something other than the court, or his implications were to that effect, in his opening statement and then comes along and is not even as candid as that famous solicitor or senior counsel we had in this country at one time, who changed from the plaintiff to the defendant and, when asked by the judge why he changed his mind, replied: "Well, your honour, it is a fool who would not change his mind on greater enlightenment." The Leader of the Opposition was not even so candid, as he even denied that there were any implications at all. The rest of the speeches I have been listening to are just making a case again, if I may quote the parable of the two monkeys that got the pound of cheese.

I am not familiar with that parable. I imagine that the word "anecdote" would be a more appropriate one.

Mr. Burke

Last night Deputy Costello came in and said that he knew nothing about the case. He was very innocent. He was so innocent that he did not know what he was talking about, but he was very annoyed when another Deputy invited him to say that he knew all about it. We on this side can understand why some speakers on the opposite side are so interested in this. I have no doubt there is a two-edged sword here. Why should Deputy Dillon say that there is such a vital democratic principle involved? The Deputy has not convinced me that there is. We are simply being asked to do what the Irish people would really like us to do. As the majority Party, we are not trying to force any views down the necks of the minority.

There is no Parliament in the world where the minority get the same respect as they do here. We thank God for that. It is a good sign of any country to see that. But when a majority come to a decision they are guided by a principle in doing so. Their principle regarding these funds is as I have already stated it. I hold conscientiously that the rightful owners to these funds are Dáil Eireann. They are the people who have the right to disburse them and to have a say in the management of them. I do not think there is any other principle involved. You can quibble with words and say a good deal from time to time. Things may be misrepresented. Personal attacks may be made on the Taoiseach. Some of the members of the Opposition are very careful and able at misrepresenting things from time to time. Deputy Dillon compared these national funds to the funds of a private individual. He is an able orator, but how he can draw that analogy beats me. He cannot point out that at any time the minority in this State have not always received respect. Nothing dictatorial has ever been done until it had been fully discussed here. It is a matter of principle with the majority, in the interests of the nation and of the people as a whole, to do this.

I had no intention of intervening in this debate until I had heard so many misrepresentations from the opposite benches yesterday and last night. I feel it incumbent on me to rise if for no other reason than to try to disabuse the House of the smoke-screen that has been erected about a very simple matter, simple in the sense that the issues for anyone who wants to look into the issues are as plain as a pikestaff. I want at the outset to say that I was surprised to listen to Deputy Moran, a member of the legal profession, take such a line as he took last night, a dishonourable and unprofessional line. He had the assurance of Deputy Costello more than once that he knew nothing of the facts of the Sinn Féin funds case, and he stood up in an effort to suggest to the House and to the country that Deputy Costello knew all the facts because, away back in 1924, Deputy Costello, as a junior counsel, had to appear before the courts on a motion to have the said funds lodged in court. It is a far cry back to 1924. The only connection that Deputy Costello had with these funds was the moving of a mere formal motion that the funds be lodged in court, and lodged in court for what purpose? That the Taoiseach and his colleagues, who then sought to control the funds, could not collar them for their subversive purposes in those times.

That is a long time ago.

You will have the history of these funds in due course. This Bill was introduced for the deliberate purpose of preventing the country from having the history of these funds and from having the whole deplorable history of this brought out in the full light of day.

We do not want the history of the civil war of that period now.

I am not going into the history of the civil war, but I say that if this Bill has any merits whatever, then surely the history of the Sinn Féin funds must have a bearing on it. Surely, it is pertinent to the issues before the House to discuss the history of these funds. I say calmly and collectedly that this Bill was introduced in order that the whole position in regard to the Sinn Féin funds would be perverted in the public mind: in order that the full facts would be kept back from the public mind, and in order that the past history of certain politicians in this House and outside this House would not be brought out in full under the light of cross-examination in a court of law.

Deputy Burke talked of principles. He said that the people on the opposite benches were influenced by principle as much as we here are influenced by principle, but when he went on to define principle he could only give us a recital of what he knew of the facts of this matter. I pressed him to define in particular the principle involved on their side in this debate. I failed to get it from him. I challenge the Taoiseach to produce any principle, moral or legal, upon which this measure can be defended. Deputy Burke also hinted that lawyers, apparently on this side of the House, have a sinister and material purpose in seeking to defeat this measure. It will be of no benefit to me, or to any of my colleagues in the profession on this side of the House, what happens. We are completely unconcerned in this matter. We have no interest in it good, bad or indifferent. Counsel are already employed in this case, and it is immaterial to anyone not employed in the case what is the outcome of this measure. A suggestion of that kind was certainly one that I did not expect from Deputy Burke whom I normally find to be a decent Deputy in all matters.

The Deputy also said that Dáil Éireann is the proper body to deal with these funds, that in essence it is the lineal successor to Sinn Féin. Was there ever such nonsense perpetrated in this House? Mind you, Deputy Burke is taking his cue from the Taoiseach. Let us not confuse the matter. Dáil Éireann is the sovereign Parliament of twenty-six counties in this country in which several Parties are represented, the majority Party being the Government Party. Sinn Féin was nothing more or less in its time than the majority Party in whatever Parliamentary institution we were able to establish in those days. After 1919 we did set up a republic and did function through the Dáil Departments of Government. Even so, Sinn Féin was only a majority Party. I can see no analogy whatever in suggesting that this House is the lineal successor of the political Party of Sinn Féin. It is no such thing. There is no legal or political continuity of any kind between Sinn Féin as a political Party and this House as the sovereign Legislative Assembly of the Twenty-Six Counties. Sinn Féin as a political Party claim to represent the republican tradition and to have still as its aims the setting up of a republic for the 32 Counties. I shall not dwell on that particular aspect but I say that there is no analogy whatever. I cannot see how this House could claim in any way, by any stretch of the imagination, to own or to dispose of these funds.

I come now to the case that has led to the matter being brought to the House. I say, as other Deputies on this side of the House have said, that I know absolutely nothing, except what appeared in the Press, of the facts of this case. I am not concerned with the merits or demerits of the Sinn Féin claim to these funds. I am not concerned in any way whatever with the outcome of the proceedings before the courts at present. I do not care two hoots what happens those funds, whether they go to the Sinn Féin executive or elsewhere. I do not care whether the Sinn Féin claim, as at present presented to the courts, is frivolous or vexatious. I do not care whether it is immoral, unreasonable, unfounded in fact, a claim that has no substance in law. I do not care what it is. That is entirely beside the point. The facts upon which they make their claim, while having a bearing on this measure, certainly have no bearing on the issues which confront the House in this Bill.

The case of the Sinn Féin executive is a very simple one. They are a group of Irish citizens formed into a political organisation who claim to be the lineal successors of old Sinn Féin and who, in virtue of that claim, seek legal redress before the courts set up under our Constitution. If that claim is frivolous or vexatious, the courts would have no difficulty in disposing of it and awarding costs against the parties, if for no other reason than to punish them for putting forward a frivolous and vexatious claim. If, on the other hand, these people have a reasonable claim, why are they prevented from putting forward that reasonable claim and establishing the facts in the only way in which they can be established with any satisfaction, that is, by having testimony given on oath, having witnesses and the interested persons brought there and having their testimony put to the full test by cross-examination? That is the normal procedure by which facts at issue in any dispute between any body of citizens can be satisfactorily settled and it is the only procedure, to my mind, by which any facts in issue in any given case can be settled.

But here we get the position that the Taoiseach says: "I know the facts and I am the competent judge of those facts. I will be the arbiter of the facts. I will decide on the facts and nobody will gainsay me." That is what we are getting in this measure. On Second Reading he said he could not allow this case to go to the courts because the courts could only give what he described as an unreal decision, that they would not know the facts or could not get the facts and that, therefore, their decision would be unreal. That was the case made for the Bill on Second Reading by the Taoiseach—a most extraordinary case.

The Taoiseach is credited with having said on one occasion: "Whenever I want to know what the Irish people want, I have only to look into my own heart." Apparently applying that philosophy, he has looked into his own heart to see what should be done with the Sinn Féin funds and he has decided on this measure and, in pursuance of that philosophy, we have been constrained to debate this measure at such inordinate length. We have to debate it at inordinate length because fundamental principles are involved and because we are going to resist any encroachment by the Executive on these fundamental principles. We are getting into a position here in which what was at one time claimed for the King—the Divine right to do no wrong —is now being claimed for the Taoiseach. We are getting into the position in which the Taoiseach is to be the arbiter in all things and in which he is to declare for himself and his Party: "I can do no wrong. I have the Divine right to decide."

He sees nothing at all wrong in this measure. He is quite innocent. He sees nothing at all wrong in it and no objection to putting in the Chief Justice. He says it has been done before. I do not know what he is referring to when he says it has been done before, except, perhaps, the Red Cross Bill. As far as my memory serves me, the President was at one time made the head of the Red Cross, and subsequently there was an amending measure making the Chief Justice head of the Red Cross. That was a non-contentious, purely formal matter in which there were no issues of any description, good, bad or indifferent, involved. But here you have a matter which is highly contentious, not only in this House but outside the House, in which a certain group of citizens feel so keenly that they are prepared to risk their all in the courts in order to get legal redress. We are asked to agree to a measure which, in this atmosphere of contention, brings in the Chief Justice——

That was decided yesterday.

I have not spoken on this measure before.

There was a section of this Bill, appointing the Chief Justice as chairman, and it was passed yesterday after five hours debate.

I will have it on Section 13, then.

Ba mhaith liom pointe eagair a chur os do chomhair, a Chinn Chomhairle. Bhfuil an díospóireacht seo in ordú in aon chor?

Tá chuid mhaith de in ordú.

Agus chuid mhaith de nach bhfuil.

Sin tuairim an Teachta.

Agus má tá aon tuairim ag an Teachta ar an mBille, ba mhaith linn é a chloisint.

Nílím chun cabhrú leatsa sa chur in aghaidh atá ar siúl agat.

Bhfuil tuairim ar an mBille agat?

Tá tuairmí go leor agam.

Deputy Coogan.

I am sure, if Deputy O'Brien wants to contribute——

Ó Briain, má is é do thoil é.

Deputy O'Brien to me.

A Chinn Chomhairle, tugadh leas-ainm orm anseo agus iarraim ort mé a chosaint. Toghadh mé mar Dhonnchadh Ó Briain.

I should like to see the Deputy's Baptismal certificate.

Toghadh anseo mé mar Dhonnchadh Ó Briain agus iarraim ort, a Chinn Chomhairle, m'ainm a chosaint.

Má thugann an Teachta seans dom.

Gabh mo leathscéal.

Do toghadh an Teachta mar Ó Briain. He was elected as Ó Briain.

Tá go maith. We will not enter into a discussion on names.

We had better not.

The Deputy should not get vexed about it.

I shall not dwell on the propriety of bringing in the Chief Justice. It has already been argued at considerable length. All I had to say on that score was that I endorse and agree with everything that has been said in so far as I see that the Chief Justice, in the event of this matter being contested as to its constitutionality, would be placed in an impossible and most embarrassing position. The Taoiseach says he sees no difficulty whatever in having the arrangement which he is setting up in this measure implemented, that we are simply passing a law and that it will be for the courts to interpret the law once it is passed. That is all very well but I would like to address this point of view to the Taoiseach. The test of a good law ought to be whether that law is or is not in the public interest: whether that law is or is not calculated to serve the common good: whether or not that law is calculated to secure the community in time of danger, to preserve good order in society, to regulate the conduct of our citizens, in particular of our citizens in, say, their day-to-day relations, in their business dealings with each other, in their litigation with each other. If the law serves these purposes it can be defended.

If the law does not serve the common good it cannot be defended. I hold that our Constitution prescribes that all citizens are equal under the law and before the law: that all citizens have the right of access to the courts of the land: that all citizens have that right in equal measure and, that that being so, it is contrary to these rights and a deliberate violation of these rights that any body of citizens should be denied in any issue whatever, no matter what it may be, the right of access to the courts to have legal redress for whatever they may consider to be their grievances as between citizen and citizen. Taking that view, it is clear, to my mind, that the common good does not dictate that this measure should be passed. On the contrary the common good dictates that the people who claim to be the present-day Sinn Féin Executive should have the protection of the courts in this matter. I say that the Sinn Féin Executive should have the protection of the House in this matter. As I have already emphasised I am completely unconcerned as to the merits or demerits of their claim but I emphasise that if these people feel they have a case in law it should be threshed out in the courts in the open light of day and, feeling as they do, they are entitled to that measure of protection which I have suggested here. Every time we, on this side of the House, rise from our seats to criticise Government measures or to contribute in any way to the collective wisdom of the House we are accused of being either traitors or saboteurs. We are told we are being treacherous. We are told we are undermining the Taoiseach or the Government. I have said before and I will keep saying it until I am sick and tired of saying it, that our business here is opposition, opposition, opposition. As far as we can we shall try to give constructive opposition. We will not be deflected from our duty by any misrepresentations or threats from the other side. I want to say that it is our job, when fundamental issues are involved, to protest against the violation of these issues. It is our job, if at all possible, to try to deflect the Government and in particular the Taoiseach, from the path he is taking when fundamental issues are being trampled upon. We shall continue to do that to the end of our time here, be that time long or short.

I cannot do better than quote for the Taoiseach from the Dedication to the English Nation, written by the well-known constitution authority, Junius:—

"Let me exhort and conjure you never to suffer an invasion of your political constitution, however minute the circumstance may appear, to pass by, without a determined, persevering, resistance. One precedent creates another. They soon accumulate and constitute law. What yesterday was fact to-day is doctrine. Examples are supposed to justify the most dangerous measures, and where they do not suit exactly, the defect is supplied by analogy. Be assured that the laws, which protect us in all our civil rights, grew out of the constitution, and that they must fall or flourish with it. This is not the cause of faction or of party, or of any individual, but the common interest of every man."

Throughout the period in which I have been a Deputy in this House measure after measure has been brought into this House by the Government Party in which it is sought to set aside the courts, in which it is sought to make certain things conclusive evidence and binding on the courts, in which it is sought to put aside the judgments of the courts, in which it is sought to set up a particular Minister or a particular Department as the final arbiter to the exclusion of the court. In all matters, social and economic, affecting the lives of our people we are gradually building up a bureaucratic dictatorship. We have a Party dictatorship in the House. We have all these things done in the name of democracy. I need not remind the House of the strenuous opposition that was made here against the Public Health Bill which had many unsatisfactory features of that kind in it. The Bill has happily been withdrawn and a modified measure is coming before the House. I need not remind the House of the decision taken by the Government in the Arterial Drainage Bill, now an Act, to set aside the decision of the court, and of mulcting the ratepayers of County Limerick to something like £10,000.

There are many, many other instances which can be quoted. Every time a measure comes before the House we are asked to subscribe to the principle of bureaucratic dictatorship, of setting aside the courts as the final arbiters of citizens' rights as between citizen and citizen and, more especially, as between citizen and the State. Every time the issue is one between the citizen and the State we are precluded by a measure which makes the opinion of a particular Minister the final judgment on the matter. This is another symptom of that type of thing.

As I have said before in this House, power grows by what it feeds on. The more it feeds the bigger grows its mouth and the more you have to put into the mouth to keep it full. We are having a sample of it here. I want to say, in conclusion, that my opposition to this measure is entirely based upon the grounds that it is an encroachment by the Executive upon the courts in the first instance. It is an encroachment by the Executive upon the rights of our citizens, a more fundamental right, if you like, than the courts' right. It is a definite attempt to set aside the rights of citizens, to prevent them having redress before the courts in a matter which they feel very keenly, in a matter of conviction to which they have given a good deal of consideration and thought and upon which they feel they must have legal redress.

On these issues and these issues alone it should be a simple matter for any Deputy to understand what is involved in this measure. Stripped of its verbiage, it means that the Taoiseach must have his will. Rightly or wrongly, the ego of the Taoiseach must be written into the Statute Book in this measure. That is what we have here. On a historic occasion away back in 1934, when the late Mr. Hitler had occasion to purge his Party of some of his colleagues, he took upon himself the role of judge, jury and high executioner, and in some cases he handed the weapons of self-destruction personally to his former friends and colleagues.

When, subsequently, he was challenged as to why he did not give these men an opportunity of being tried by a court, either by a courtmartial or the Supreme Court of Germany, his answer was: "I am the Supreme Court." We are getting very near that mentality in this measure. We have the ego of the Taoiseach written into this measure, the divine right of the Taoiseach to dispose of these funds as he sees fit. May I say that there would have been a very simple way of disposing of this matter had the right lines been chosen? The Taoiseach complained of lack of co-operation from this side of the House. What co-operation did he seek? He slapped this measure before us without any prior consultation with any leader of the Opposition Parties, without any consultation with any Party represented in this House. I doubt if he consulted even the Government Party behind him. How, therefore, could there have been co-operation if in a matter of this kind, which goes so far into our recent history, there was no prior consultation? I do not want to weary the House further with what I have to say and I shall reserve my further remarks for Section 13. I do appeal to the Taoiseach to reconsider his whole attitude in this manner, to reconsider the fundamental principles and issues involved and, as Deputy Dillon recommended, to withdraw this measure from the House and let a select committee, or something of that kind, of the different Parties be set up to see how best this matter could be disposed of once and for all. This matter can be disposed of without setting up this dangerous precedent of setting aside the courts and of prostituting the courts of justice for political purposes.

I have listened very carefully both yesterday and this morning to most of the speeches delivered for and against this Bill. The people have been mentioned both by the Taoiseach and some other speakers from the opposite benches. I am concerned also with the position of the man in the street if this Bill becomes law, which, of course, with the usual steam-rolling methods of the Government Party, we must anticipate it will. I have a feeling, which is possibly shared by many Deputies representing city constituencies, that once this Bill becomes law it will not tend to further or additional respect for the law as it stands, nor will it gain any respect for the members of Dáil Éireann. In my view, it will bring both the institution itself and its members into considerable disrepute. The undermining of the law which has been manifested in two or three measures that came before this House—this is the third so far as my recollection goes— in which, in order to save the face of the Government, legislation which was made retrospective was introduced, in my view was the beginning of the end of respect for this House and most of the Deputies.

We have heard a lot about the plaintiffs in this case—Mrs. Buckley and Sceilg. They may be nonentities. I take it that they are for the purpose of what I have to say. But, if they are nonentities, they are at least citizens of the country. I take it they are both on the register of voters in the city and as such are entitled to full rights of citizenship. That right of citizenship is about to be taken away from these people by virtue of the fact that you have in Dáil Éireann a machine-made majority, a number of people who dare not say "no" once the Taoiseach says: "You must say `yes' ". That cannot be denied. They cannot call their souls their own. On more than one occasion they have gone into the Lobby to vote against the very things they advocated in their own constituencies, such as an increase in old age pensions. We know that a number of them, at any rate, cannot call their souls their own; they have to do what they are told and there is no more about it.

Speaking as one who meets the common people every other day, I feel that they would be very much surprised and taken aback, even many of those who voted for the Fianna Fáil Party at various elections, at this retrograde step. At a time when we hear so much of the want of civic spirit in our cities and towns—which, of course, is only too true—I ask the Taoiseach: does he feel that this will help in bringing about a better civic spirit in the minds and hearts of the people? I have no hesitation in saying that it will be one of the worst steps ever taken by this Dáil to correct that want of civic spirit. There are people who disregarded Acts of Parliament from time to time, who showed their contempt for these Acts in various ways. Some of them went to prison because of their feeling towards these Acts passed by this House. Any of us who believe in standing by the Constitution and obeying the laws of the country and who, on occasion, praised that civic spirit and sometimes condemned the lack of it, cannot but feel that once this measure becomes law it will tend further to weaken that civic spirit which is almost absent in our country. I am wondering what will happen if and when this becomes law. We are told —I think it was Deputy Burke who told us—that the money would be given to many of those people who suffered during the 1916 period and before it and who are now in indigence and poverty and deserve and require some financial help. In view of what happened in relation to the Dáil Éireann Loan, one naturally becomes suspicious. We know what happened then.

Towards the end of the time, although extensions were granted by the Dáil, it was discovered that there was a certain amount of money left over or unclaimed and legislation was rushed through the Dáil. I think the Taoiseach, or the Minister for Industry and Commerce who represents him at the moment, knows very well that I am telling the truth when I say that it was diverted to establish a newspaper in this country.

That is not true at all.

I must ask the Deputy to leave that to the Minister.

It is a deliberate invention of the Fine Gael Party for propaganda purposes.

It is quite true— absolutely true.

It is not true simply because Deputy Morrissey says it.

It is a travesty of the truth and I ask Deputy Morrissey to quote the measure passed, handing over money to establish a newspaper.

It was not Deputy Morrissey who said it at all; it was Deputy Anthony.

I am sorry if I mentioned Deputy Morrissey; I meant Deputy Anthony.

The paper would have died ten years ago only for that money.

That is a travesty of the truth.

It is the perfect truth. There is not a shadow of a doubt about it. Why, it is notorious.

A Daniel come to judgment!

No; just a man with a good memory. It is perfectly true, and they know it.

That money was not diverted to the Irish Press.

I did not mention the firm or the institution.

I think Deputy Anthony has a terrible "neck" to talk about Sinn Féin funds at all.

We all know where the other money went to. Let the Minister indicate where it went to.

I think the Deputy should get back to the Bill.

To the section.

We are told that this money will go to certain persons who are indigent and poor because of their activities in the past. I quite subscribe to all that, but I would like to see those people compensated in some other way. Surely we are not so bankrupt that it has to be admitted that there are a number of persons so poor, so indigent, and perhaps in very bad health as a result of their activities at one period in this country. It is a perfect disgrace for this Dáil and Government that any man who served in 1916 and at other periods should be left to die in the workhouse. They should be helped.

The Deputy should at least speak about the Bill, if he does not speak about the section.

We are talking about where the money is to go.

This section does not deal with that aspect.

I am asking these questions to satisfy the ordinary man in the street, the man who reads the Irish Press, the Irish Independent, the Cork Examiner, or the Irish Times. Those are the people about whom I am concerned.

The vital matter is the staying of proceedings at present before the court.

For what purpose?

And the paying of the costs of everybody.

When you stay the proceedings in the courts——

Deputies must not discuss the whole Bill on one section.

I have the feeling that when this Bill has passed into law— and I believe it will be—you will handicap in the very gravest way the activities of the officers of your State. I do not want to mention the name of the Chief Justice and I resent bitterly that there was a caption in the papers this morning that the Chief Justice was attacked. He was not attacked. No one here would have the audacity to attack him; no public-spirited citizen would have the audacity to stand up here or outside and condemn the action or the contemplated action of the Chief Justice.

We have condemned it very strongly.

Not the person, but the institution. I sincerely hope that the Taoiseach will take heed of what has been said by the Opposition. You have had the expressions of opinion of the Farmers' Party, the Independents, the Fine Gael Party and others—all except the Fianna Fáil Party, who wanted to rush this measure through the House. Surely this is a deliberative assembly. It is not an assembly in which one man should act as dictator. Let us hear no more complaints about dictatorship on the Continent and all the rest of it, because we have it here in operation every day in the week.

I have no interest whatever in the politics of the issue now being discussed by the House and by the courts. To me the issue is a very simple one indeed. Funds were collected many years ago by an organisation then known as the Sinn Féin organisation. They were used by that organisation for some years and eventually a split occurred in the organisation over the acceptance or the nonacceptance of the Treaty and the funds, or the balance of them, collected by the original Sinn Féin organisation were deposited in the courts by the surviving trustees.

Now a group claims ownership of these moneys. It says that it is the legitimate and the incorruptible upholder of the principles of Sinn Féin and that it is entitled in law and in equity to the ownership of these moneys. In order to establish their ownership of the money the members of that group have taken the case to the courts and they have asked the courts to determine who should own the moneys. The Taoiseach, in the course of his speech on the Second Reading of this Bill, was rather annoyed at one stage that the case was being dealt with in the courts in such a leisurely manner that money was being frittered away and later he told us that the case for the introduction of this Bill so speedily, so hurriedly, was that the courts were now likely to pronounce judgment on the issues involved and that this Bill was introduced for the purpose of enabling the House to decide the issues and prevent the courts passing judgment in the matter.

We have been told by the Taoiseach that this House is a qualified court to judge the issues involved. I should imagine that any court or any body to be qualified to judge the issues ought to have put before it the case for the plaintiff and the case for the defendant. The case for the defendants—the Government and the Attorney-General— has been put abundantly in this House. Who has made a case here for the plaintiffs? The plaintiffs have no representation in this House. The plaintiffs have no authorised or even unauthorised spokesman in this House. Nobody has been able to put the case for the plaintiffs here. Nobody has been able to hear what case the plaintiffs could make in the courts. Nobody could say on what basis the plaintiffs' case rests and, notwithstanding that we have heard only one side, the case for the defendants, this House is told that it is the proper body to decide the issues.

How can it be qualified to decide the issues? It has had no opportunity of hearing the other side. It has been asked to believe, because the Government want things done in a particular way, that it is the only body competent to decide this matter. Whilst the case was before the courts for the past couple of years nothing was done to impede the rights of the plaintiffs to have the case heard, and the very fact that the plaintiffs were permitted to go into the courts, in the first instance, the very fact that the case came before the courts, is all an acknowledgment of their right to go there, is all a recognition by the defendants that the courts are the authority to try an issue of this kind.

Now that the courts are about to try the case and when it comes to light that the Taoiseach is to be a witness, legislation is introduced to prevent the case being heard by the courts. In other words, the Dáil is being asked to strangle the legal action at present before the courts. It is being asked to prevent a group of citizens from going before the courts to have their rights determined there. You cannot convince any citizen, who has got a free mind in the matter, that the reason for strangling the legal action and for preventing these citizens from having their case heard is other than to save certain unique witnesses the necessity of having to go into court. The Taoiseach, instead of permitting this matter to be dealt with by the court, prefers that a politically constituted House such as this should decide the issues involved. I know of no authority less qualified to deal with this matter than this politically-constituted House. I think probably every member of the House is opposed politically to the Sinn Féin organisation or to its methods of doing business. Why, therefore, bring into a House, constituted as this is, such a contentious issue as the ownership of these funds and ask a House so constituted to decide the matter—decide it in circumstances in which we have heard only the defendants' case and have not heard the plaintiffs' case at all? Surely the normal and the natural thing is to let the courts decide a matter of this kind? Let them hear the case for the Attorney-General and the case for the plaintiffs and let the courts, with their qualifications for weighing and sifting evidence, for ascertaining facts, for giving a balanced judgment, decide whom these trifling sums belong to, because trifling they are relatively and more trifling they will be even if this Bill is passed by the House.

It seems to me looking at the thing purely from the point of view of the citizen's right—I have no interest in the Sinn Féin organisation, no interest in the politics involved in this case— to be a violent invasion of the citizen's rights that a certain group having instituted an action in the court to determine a relatively simple issue, they should then by legislation passed in this House be prevented from getting from the courts their natural right, namely, a determination in law and in equity where the merits of this issue lie. As I say, nobody free to express an unmilled, unmangled opinion on this matter can be convinced that the reason for introducing this Bill is not to avoid the possibility of certain distinguished witnesses appearing in court and of being embarrassed by cross-examination there. I think the possibility of embarrassing the Taoiseach and other distinguished witnesses in this case is a small and trifling matter compared with the vicious principle involved in the introduction of the Bill. It does not matter who has got to run the gauntlet of the courts in a matter of this kind so long as we protect the right of citizens to go into court and to get justice from the institutions established under the Constitution to dispense justice.

The sum of money that is involved in this case, compared with the urgent problems that remain to be dealt with in the country, is not worth wasting an afternoon on. Tens of thousands of our people are going out in emigrant ships. Tens of thousands are gravely affected by fuel shortages, bread shortages and butter shortages. A whole mass of urgent economic and nationally vital work remains to be done but this House spends two days, portion of them in disorderly fracas, discussing a matter of this kind in which a few thousand pounds are involved. And this in a country with £400,000,000 of sterling assets across the water!

It seems to be a mockery, a cynical display of contempt for the urgent issues facing the nation to-day, that at this time of the year in our circumstances we should be quarrelling over a trifling sum of a few thousand pounds when we should be doing much more important and much more vital work. When all expenses have been paid, probably £6,000 or £8,000 will be left out of these funds. Every adult citizen going out of the country by the mail boat from Dun Laoghaire to-night has cost the nation about £1,000 to bring him to manhood. We are content to export thousands of pounds in that way, to-night and every night during the year from Dun Laoghaire. We expend money on them and we export them to do work and to create wealth elsewhere. Here we are quarrelling in a most acrimonious manner about a few thousand pounds and we have no concern at all for the thousands of pounds we are exporting by the mail boats and across the Border every day of the week.

Again we are told that the purpose to which these funds will be devoted will be to provide relief. I think that is the most miserable subterfuge that has ever been put before the Dáil. Does somebody think that we are a collection of half-wits or nit-wits in asking us to believe that the lofty purpose of this Bill is to make available a few thousand pounds for the purpose of relieving distress amongst people who had distress visited upon them because of their activities 31 years ago or 25 years ago? Bearing in mind that our regard and solicitude for them are such that although the distress arose out of the events of that period we have allowed it to continue for 31 or 25 years——

Rip Van Winkle.

We are being asked to agree that this miserable crumb relatively should be thrown to these unfortunate people and they are being asked to queue up and scramble for the mess of pottage that is being provided for them under the Bill. I think it is an insult to these people. It is a mockery of their sufferings and it is a discreditable subterfuge. If there is distress, why not let us deal with it, in a decent and manly fashion? Let us ascertain the names of those who have suffered for the nation. Let us do the thing properly, not by passing a Bill to provide the few pence, the few shillings or the few pounds they will get under this measure but some decent compensation in return for the services which they have rendered to the nation. To try to line up in a queue, hungry, destitute and unfortunate people and to slip to them through a backdoor, funds which were collected for a high national purpose is, I say, using these people for very discreditable ends.

I have no interest whatever in the Sinn Féin organisation. I have no interest in their politics. I do not care whether or not the Taoiseach will be a witness in this case. I know of no reason why the House ought to be invited to tear up the rights of an ordinary citizen to go into the courts merely to save people the possible embarrassment of having to testify on oath before an Irish constituted judiciary as to what the facts are or were in connection with the Sinn Féin organisation. The courts are the custodians of the rights and liberties of the people, and we are entitled, having placed them in that unassailable position, to expect that they will be allowed to discharge their functions, irrespective of whom they please or displease, irrespective of who is or is not a witness and irrespective of whom they embarrass or do not embarrass.

When we put on the one side our reverence almost for the judiciary, as enshrined in the Constitution, and, on the other side, the miserable issues involved in the financial aspects of this Bill, I cannot for the life of me understand how the Government were ever induced, by whatever process of reasoning operated among them, to introduce this Bill which, first, is an insult to the judiciary, is, secondly, an invasion of the legal rights of the citizens, is, thirdly, a discreditable example to every other citizen and is, fourthly, merely an effort by the Government, in my view, to win a political contest with an adversary. I suggest to the Taoiseach that when he reflects on this Bill and on the discussions, he will have no reason to congratulate himself on introducing this measure.

We are dealing only with a particular section of the Bill.

Section 10, the section which prevents a citizen from having his rights determined by the court. He is the person I am concerned about— the simple, innocent citizen, the insignificant citizen and the penniless citizen, according to the Taoiseach, whose rights are to be invaded by Section 10. When you think of the few miserable pounds involved—and miserable they are, relatively—and then think of all the other work that remains to be done on behalf of the nation, I say it is a mockery of the people's present-day sufferings, with shortages of bread, butter, fuel and many other commodities, that the House should be wasting its time on a Bill of this kind which can do only one thing, that is, create more enmity and more rancour among the people whose problems are such that it is not rancour and enmity will cure them but the fullest measure of co-operation amongst them.

The Constitution under which we live and under which this House functions lays it down very definitely that justice shall be administered by the courts. It states also very definitely that every citizen shall have free access to the courts. Last night, the Taoiseach declared that the Dáil is the supreme court of equity, the sovereign court of this land. By that statement, he directly contradicted the Constitution of which he was the author and which was endorsed by the people. The Constitution very definitely lays it down that the decisions of the Supreme Court are final and irrevocable, but the Taoiseach would set up a higher court—he would set up this Dáil as a court superior to the Supreme Court. He speaks of the Dáil as being a court of equity, a cool, calm and detached body which can decide a complicated, complex question purely on its merits. I was entering the Dáil yesterday and I came upon two members of this supreme court exchanging blows. That is the kind of court to which the Taoiseach would submit this complex and difficult question.

In establishing the courts of this land, the Constitution took very adequate precautions, guided by precedents in other countries, to ensure that they would be independent and detached. Judges are appointed for life—they cannot be removed except in very exceptional circumstances and judges' salaries cannot be reduced. That is all necessary to ensure that judges are absolutely independent and impartial, and not subject to pressure by any Party in this House, and particularly not subject to pressure by the majority Party. To the Supreme Court of this land, two humble citizens go, claiming their rights as citizens, and immediately the court proceeds to decide that difficult issue, the difficult and complex circumstances of the case, the Taoiseach proposes that Dáil Éireann should rap the judges on the knuckles and take the case out of their hands.

There have been occasions in the past when Dáil Éireann has been called upon to restrict the liberty of the courts in general in regard to matters which might come before them in the future, but this is a more dangerous matter. It is a matter which is already before the courts and which it is proposed to take out of the hands of the judges concerned. A precedent is established, if this Bill is passed, by which any case which has a political complexion, which reflects in any way upon the Government, will not be allowed to go before the courts. The judges, when a case in which some members of the Government Party is involved, will always be looking over their shoulders expecting the Executive to swoop down upon them, with the approval of the legislative Assembly, in which they have a machine majority and take the case out of their hands.

A majority provided by the people.

It is certainly provided by the people. No question is raised in connection with that matter, but the minority in this House is also elected by the people and the Constitution of this country, as of every democratic country, is drawn up in order to ensure that minorities can elect their representatives who will be able to express their views. The Minister for Industry and Commerce during the few moments he was in the House interrupted to say that Deputy Anthony had a terrible "neck" to speak about Sinn Féin funds. Deputies have a perfect right freely to discuss and freely to express their views on any question that comes before the House, no matter what the origin of the issues involved may be.

We would be doing a very unwise thing if we allowed the courts to be restricted, to be trampled upon in the manner in which it is proposed to trample upon them in this Bill. It may be that the party appealing to the courts has very little sympathy from any section of the people, it may be that they are a very undesirable party in the political field, but they are at least citizens of this country and they have at least respected the courts to the extent of coming before the courts to plead their case. The court has agreed to hear their case. No question, therefore, should be raised which would prevent the court deciding the case on the merits and on the merits alone. It is all very well to draw in a side issue and say that this money can be more usefully spent than by frittering it away in legal proceedings. It may happen that much of the money will be frittered away in administrative action under this Bill because the distribution of the money will be a very delicate and difficult matter. That will, however, come up for attention later. The right of the court to decide issues between one citizen and another is so important a principle that this House should, under no circumstances, interfere with, or take away, that right. We know that, where questions at issue are of long standing and where complicated side issues have been raised, the efflux of time makes it a slow and painful process for the court to come to a decision. Since the court must deal with the matter in an objective manner and since it must be absolutely fair, it is inevitable that much time and considerable sums of money will be lost.

Deputy Dillon referred to the case of a domestic servant who was 12 years seeking payment of wages which were due to her. These cases will arise. I know of a case of a good, Catholic woman who died 14 years ago, having left a perfectly valid will, bequeathing all her property, value for £3,000, to her daughter. Notwithstanding that everything appeared to be straightforward, that property has been the subject of litigation for the past 14 years and is almost frittered away. We know that these things arise and we regret that they do. Is that any reason why we should take the decision of this complicated and difficult question out of the hands of men who have judicial training and who are independent and put it into the hands of the Dáil, a body almost every member of which has strong political views and political prejudices? No member of the House can be regarded as detached and independent in respect of political issues. There are political issues involved in the case before the court. The plaintiffs are a political party and is a political assembly the right and proper tribunal to decide such issues? There can be no justice in such a proposal. Just to show how much difference of opinion can exist in regard to simple matters of this kind and how necessary it is to have an absolutely detached, judicial mind deciding them, I should like to refer to a statement made by Deputy Burke. Deputy Burke is a member to whom I always listen with respect because I know he is a goodnatured, kindly man who would not deliberately offend anybody or do an injustice. He expressed the view that these funds were the funds of Sinn Féin, which was the national organisation which achieved the independence of this country and that this Parliament is the lawful successor of that organisation. Even on that simple statement, there are grounds for two or three opinions. It is a matter of history that Sinn Féin was not the only national organisation responsible for the freedom of the country. During the long struggle for independence, other national organisations made as great a contribution as, and perhaps a greater contribution than, Sinn Féin to the struggle for this country's freedom——

Is not the Deputy going beyond the section?

I am replying to a suggestion made by a Deputy. I think that it is necessary to reply to it because we have had it dogmatically stated that the issues in this case are so simple that it is not necessary to put them before a judicial body. I want to show that the issues are not so simple.

The issues do not arise on this section.

The issue in this section is the taking of a definitely stated case out of the hands of the court.

Deputies may not go into the merits of the particular case.

I have no intention of going into the merits of the case but it is necessary to show that this House is not sufficiently objective in its approach to a case such as is before the court to be relied upon to decide it in the proper way. A very grave mistake will be made if we establish the precedent which this Bill seeks to establish. A mistake will be made which will weaken still further the democratic institutions of the country and impinge upon the rights of ordinary citizens. If the Taoiseach is wise, he will pay attention to the pleas made from all sides of the House. He may be very strong and vehement in his assertion of the rights of the majority but there was a time when he was equally strong in his assertion of the rights of a minority. I advise the Taoiseach to be fair and just to minorities because he may himself in the future be leader of a minority.

The question is: "That Section 10"——

I take it that the Taoiseach proposes to say something in reply to the representations we made this morning?

The Taoiseach, when speaking on this matter last night, said that he was bringing it to a sovereign court of justice, a court which can decide in substance upon the justice of what is proposed. What has gone wrong with the national sense of justice when the only place it rests is on the Government Benches? Every Party in this House, both on the Second Reading of the Bill and on every section that has been discussed here now in open and frank debate, has expressed their opinion on the matter and shown their sense of justice. It is a rather extraordinary state of national decay if in all the other Parties representing the actual majority of the people, a sense of justice is absent. I rather deny that there is a sense of justice absent here and I deny that, if the members of the Fianna Fáil Party were left unbound by the Party binding which constrains their conscience, they are devoid of a sense of justice either.

Section 10 contains two particular things. It purports to prevent plaintiffs who are before an Irish court having their case decided there and it purports to make arrangements that the costs of both the plaintiff and the defendant in this case will be paid out of these moneys, the safeguarding of which is so precious that we have to outrage the sense of justice, at any rate of every other Party, in order to safeguard them. Deputy Norton has indicated that, while we have heard from the Government Benches the alleged case for the defendant in the matter, we are not in a position to get the facts upon which the plaintiff bases his case. To some extent, we are. I am sure that a certain number of Deputies in the House have been circulated from the Sinn Féin organisation with copies of documents outlining their statement of their claim on the one hand and outlining an account, by a previous president of the organisation, of the continuity of Sinn Féin. I would normally like that there should be somebody in the House who would give us the facts, just to place them alongside the Taoiseach's statement of the facts, as a matter of national record. However, we are not here concerned with the facts, either of the plaintiff's side or of the defendant's side; we are concerned with the fact that a plaintiff has gone into an Irish court with a case of such strength that £5,000 has had to be spent to prepare the answering case and that this House is proposing to pass legislation to deprive the plaintiff of his right to have the case heard. There is enough evidence of the amount of work they had in putting their case and the amount of work that had to be put into the defence. An Irish citizen has gone into the Irish courts with a claim against another. On these grounds alone, we would oppose Parliament here intervening to prevent the courts dealing with that particular case inside.

Here we are asked to wipe out a case which may be good or, if the case be bad, to dip into these precious moneys and take something like £5,000 to pay the expenses of persons who went into court with a bad case. The Government and the Government Party are putting the House into an extraordinary dilemma. If we leave aside the court and the fundamental principle that we are fighting on, we are asked to quash a good case or, alternatively, to pay the costs of people who go into court with a bad and spurious case. In fact, we are asked to do both.

Deputy Norton commented that it was extraordinary, at a difficult time for our people, that we have nothing better to do under direction from the Government than waste Parliamentary time in this way. This is probably the anniversary of a Friday on which eight of us stood here to oppose the Second Reading of the Public Health Bill. We had a protest then against, not only the outrageous principles of that measure — which ultimately we succeeded in defeating—but against the taking up of time at this particular time of the year, when urgent economic and financial matters require attention and should normally be discussed. With the country in the condition in which we know it is, with the activities that required to be stimulated and carried on in the spirit of co-operation the Taoiseach talks so glibly about, and with bigger and greater economic dangers perhaps facing us than those we have at the moment, it is disgusting and distasteful that we have to spend any part of Parliamentary time here discussing these matters. Yet here is a principle that we must stand up and defend, even at the waste of Parliamentary time, even having to work through this distasteful and disgusting discussion, as if we do not do so, we are going to undermine the whole solidarity of our people and the possibility of having any justice as between one another or any confidence in our Parliamentary institutions or in our courts.

The Taoiseach says we have the facts before us. In the first place we have not; but, in the second place, what have the facts to do with it? I would like the Taoiseach to tell us what the facts have to do with our discussion here. The only fact relevant is that a case is in the courts, that it has been accepted by the Government as being in the courts, that it is acknowledged by the courts as a case they were prepared to try, that it was acknowledged by the defendants and by the Government as a case they were prepared at a particular time to litigate; and now it is being snapped away from the courts and creating this dangerous and disgusting principle. I ask the Taoiseach what the facts of the case, the question of whether the defendant or the plaintiff has a good case or not, have to do with it? What does he expect us to understand, when he comes in here and says, as reported in to-day's paper as saying yesterday:

"I say, and I am prepared to go anywhere in the country and say, that everybody who knows the circumstances in which these moneys were contributed in the first instance, knows perfectly well that those who are claiming, at the present day, these moneys because of a formal continuity or because of something they think they can establish, are not entitled to these moneys."

The Taoiseach admits that there may be a formal continuity in the authority that these people claim as the governing body of the Sinn Féin organisation, but he sweeps that away. They may have the law on their side, but for some reason or another he thinks that they should not be allowed to take these funds. He has a lot more to explain to us with regard to his attitude than he has so far explained, and I would be glad if he would do so.

I was absent from the House for the last one and a half hours seeing a deputation. When I came back I asked Deputy Morrissey if the Taoiseach had spoken and he said no. I rise, therefore, for the purpose of putting some few questions to him. It is said outside, I suppose for political purposes more than for anything else, that the reason for this Bill is to save the sum of money involved from being squandered by the lawyers. I remember hearing the Taoiseach say last night, when Deputy Costello was speaking, that the costs of the plaintiffs would not be paid if they had not a good case. If they won they would get their costs. How are we to know whether they have a good case or not. According to Deputy Costello, if their case is a ridiculous one they will have to pay their own costs. Therefore, the case that is made outside to the public that the opposition to this Bill is a lawyers' game is all nonsense.

How are we to know what the facts of the case are? The Taoiseach said last night that this House is supreme, and that it is for the majority in it to decide. Surely, the people realise that Deputies like myself should not be stormed into voting on one side or the other on a matter that we know absolutely nothing about. I would honestly and sincerely ask the Taoiseach to prevent the whitewashing that is going on—that this is a lawyers' game, and that they are trying to gather up for themselves and their colleagues all the money they can out of this. That is what is said outside. On the other hand we are told that if the people who claim to represent Sinn Féin have a ridiculous case they will have to bear the costs themselves.

The Taoiseach said last night that he left Sinn Féin. I suppose it is his opinion that at that time the majority remained, and that he went with the minority. The minority, according to him, counted then, and I suppose he thinks that he, and he alone, was Sinn Féin. It is ridiculous to ask Deputies to judge on this matter. They have not the facts before them, and even if they had I do not think they are competent to decide. This will be decided, of course, as a Party matter. It will be a vote for or against. I ask the Taoiseach to realise that in this he is doing something that, I think, he will regret.

I asked the Taoiseach at an early stage to-day to consider this problem from the point of view that, even if he cannot understand the outlook of the Opposition in this matter, he will at least admit that as we see it a grave matter of principle is involved. I am not asking him to admit that we are right but I do not think he can persuade himself or anybody else that we do not believe that a matter of principle is involved. We most emphatically believe that a most fundamental principle it at stake. He himself has repeatedly stated on this and other sections that, in so far as the machinery of the Bill goes, he is not so much concerned. The only principle about which he is concerned is that these funds will not be appropriated to a purpose for which they were not intended. I have no claim to speak in any way about the appropriation of these funds. Neither I nor anybody belonging to me contributed one penny piece to them. We have no claim, direct or indirect, to them. I do say this without hesitation that, knowing the history of that movement, like all other movements, I would be in entire sympathy with the survivors of the original executive of Sinn Féin in their desire to get control of these funds again in the name of the group of individuals who survive of the old original executive.

If the Taoiseach said he would devise some plan analogous to the Mansion House Scholarships Fund for the use of these funds which would be acceptable to all the old members of the executive, albeit they may since have become deeply divided by their various political allegiances in the last 25 years, I would be prepared to ask my constituents to permit me to support any financial proposal brought into the House to recruit a body of trustees for any money spent in carrying the litigation that is now in process to a proper conclusion—by that I mean a judicial decision—out of the public funds. I think that every member of the House, no matter on what side he sits, will accept individual responsibility for explaining to his constituents the reason why he consented to appropriate anything up to £28,000 of public money in order to avoid resorting to the other extreme of setting the courts of justice aside in order to protect the capital of these funds. On this side of the House there is not the slightest desire in the world, expressed or implied in what any Deputy has said, to be indifferent or callous to the very natural inclination of old members of the Sinn Féin organisation to rescue these moneys for some appropriate and agreeable purpose. The Taoiseach is the head of a democratic Government, one of the most democratic Governments in Europe if we judge by the methods of its election and by the nature of its majority in this House. Because, once an election is over, I think no useful purpose is served by counting heads.

It is the Deputies in this House who choose the Government and between general elections we are the people who decide who shall be the Government of the day and we answer for that choice when we go back to our constituents at a general election. Therefore, I am asking the head of a democratic Government, democratically elected, to do that which I think a democrat in this situation is bound to do and has a very grave moral obligation to do. That is, if the Taoiseach admits to himself that he now knows that we who are a minority believe that a matter of principle is involved, if the Taoiseach feels utterly unsympathetic with that view, even unable to understand it, but still is faced with the objective fact that it is true that we feel that way, and if it is true, as he says it is true, that so far as the machinery of this Bill is concerned no question of principle arises for him, I ask him, quite deliberately, if on the Government side it is purely a matter of expediency and if on the minority side it is undoubtedly a question of principle——

Is the Deputy not repeating what he said to-day?

Let me finish the sentence, Sir. Has he not a moral duty, as head of a democratic Government and as Leader of a democratic Parliamentary Assembly, to use his power to ensure that expediency will not override principle? In what better cause could this Government drop this Bill? Let no one apprehend that the intended beneficiaries will suffer. We guarantee they will not. What grounds can the Taoiseach possibly have for persisting? Surely every consideration of good government, of good relations, of mutual confidence, would be served by letting this Bill vanish from the House.

I am not asking the Government to say, "We were wrong." I am not asking the Taoiseach to get up and pour dust and ashes on his head and say, "I did wrong." All I am asking him to say is this—"I did not know when this debate began that you felt as you do feel but I know it now. Without admitting for a moment that you are right, that alone is sufficient ground for my dropping the Bill, which I believe to be the best machinery but which manifestly gives rise to malaise and difficulties on the far side of the House, which it would be wrong for us, the majority, to impose upon a minority in this democratic country."

Surely, if the Taoiseach will not adopt that course, he will tell us why. There is nothing in this proposal which calls in question the right of the majority to prevail. There is no implication here that where principle clashes with principle across this House the minority should have any right to supplant the majority. There is no implication that where expediency clashes with expediency the minority has the right to prevail over the majority. These things being specifically disowned, lest the Taoiseach's well-known anxiety on that score should be aroused, will he, before he marshalls his majority for this section, tell us why he finds it impossible to discharge what appears to me to be a moral duty upon him or at least explain why it does not so seem to him?

Deputy Burke said there is nothing wrong in this Bill and that the Deputies on this side of the House changed their minds. No Deputy has changed his mind so often as the Taoiseach. If he had not changed his mind, he would not be here at all; he would be still fighting for the republic. Suppose these Sinn Féin funds had been spent, as they might have been, in having portraits painted of the founders of Sinn Féin—Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins—would the Taoiseach be so eager to get possession of the paintings as to bring in a special Bill for the purpose of ensuring that he and his friends would become the owners?

We are all aware that money has a great attraction for some people and that when they cannot get it out of the bank at the point of a revolver they go and bring in a special Act of Parliament—really that is what is happening by this measure. When the Taoiseach first spoke on this Bill he said he had in mind the widow of an old 1916 man. I wonder why he forgot that widow for all the years until this Bill came before a law court. Then he said it was in order to prevent the lawyers from getting the funds. That sounds very well to some people. However, I know people in my own constituency who in the days gone by subscribed to the Sinn Féin fund. Some of them paid the very small subscription of half a crown while others paid according to their means. To-day they differ with the Taoiseach. They are in a different camp from the Taoiseach and they are not satisfied that the Taoiseach can come along and take over this fund, especially as it is in the law courts. I wonder if Deputy Burke, who is a great man in the Red Cross Society, would vote if such an Act were brought in to take over the Red Cross funds, the Hospital Trust funds, or any other funds. If this goes through the same can apply to any other fund the Taoiseach may want to put his hands on. That is the position and it is well known throughout the country. We are heading for dictatorship. To my mind it is a disgrace that we should be talking about Sinn Féin funds when we have thousands of unemployed looking for work. Little did I think, after all these years, that that was the only thing that was troubling the Taoiseach and all the members who sit behind him. The Deputies in the opposite benches have no principle. That was proved during the national teachers' strike when one of the people said that they were like men swimming against the tide, that, though they belonged to the National Teachers' Organisation and subscribed to the funds of that organisation, at the same time they voted against them.

That is not relevant.

Some of the Deputies on the other side of the House talk about principle but if they had any principle they would not do that, apart altogether from the Sinn Féin funds. Will the Taoiseach explain to the House before this debate concludes why he did not leave it to the lawyers and to the judges who were going to decide it? He would not agree to that. He came in here to pilot a Bill through with the big majority of his own Party. Many people in this House, including the Leader of the Opposition and his Party members, subscribed to that fund. They were all Sinn Féiners at the time. We had a scene here in this House yesterday when one of the Government members challenged——

That matter has been referred to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Deputy Ó Briain almost challenged Deputy Coogan this morning about his name.

The Deputy will have to come down to the matter before the House.

I will, all right.

If the Deputy does not continue the discussion on Section 10 he will have to resume his seat. I do not want any reflections on the Chair.

I am not reflecting on the Chair.

If the Deputy deals with Section 10 he will not reflect on anybody.

We must deal with it and deal with it right away. I believe it is a waste of time to be discussing this matter at all in this House. The Government of the country should be doing more important business. I cannot see that the Taoiseach has put up any case as to why he should come into this Dáil and by steam-rolling take the funds which were collected all over the country from rich and from poor by Sinn Féin for the fight for independence, as we were told at the time. Some of the subscribers are not in sympathy with the present Government at all. They subscribed the money just the same as the people who are backing and trying to defend this Act now. Deputy Dillon, Deputy Costello and Deputy McGilligan are lawyers and they know the law better than the majority of us, the ordinary Deputies, and when they make their points I think the Taoiseach ought to withdraw this Act altogether. I appeal to him to do that and not to force it through with the majority he has at the present time. He has no more right to that money than I have. There is no use in saying he was trustee. He is not trustee to-day. Leave the matter to the people. Why, in the year 1947, should an Act be brought in about money that has been lying in funds for years?

I am putting Section 10——

Will the Taoiseach make any rejoinder? I do not know whether the Taoiseach's silence on this section which is the keystone of this Bill is due to his disrespect for and contempt for——

I spoke last night.

I know, but even if the Taoiseach spoke last night, may I suggest that after three hours' debate on this section this morning he might consider it necessary to say a word in reply to some of the things that have been said this morning? He might at least respond to the case made and the manner in which it was made by Deputy Dillon.

The Deputy did not give me a chance to do so. I will speak in my own proper time.

I will give way——

I do not propose to do it now. Somebody else may want to speak——

Bring in some of your own members.

Nobody is suggesting that anybody should choose the time when the Taoiseach should speak on this section. I did not rise to speak on this section until the Ceann Comhairle intimated that he was going to put the section. I want to make the point clear that I did not rise to speak until it was obvious that the section was going to be put without hearing one further word from the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach's whole case on this Bill, as I understand it, is that the courts are not the proper place to decide this issue; that this House is not only the proper place, but the only place where the issue should be decided. He gives as his reason that, in his opinion, the plaintiffs in the action before the courts have no claim to these moneys and that the reason he is now moving is that he does not want to see whatever remains of the £28,000 frittered away in court actions. I would prefer that every penny of the £28,000, or even double that amount, should be frittered away in the courts. It would be far better from every point of view that every penny of it should be frittered away in the courts rather than that we should set out to dispose of those moneys in accordance with the machinery which this Bill proposes to set up. I said yesterday that I, for one, never under - estimated the Taoiseach. There is nobody in this House who appreciates as keenly and sees as clearly the fundamental principle involved in this as the Taoiseach. But, for some reason, he is prepared to trample on that fundamental principle.

We are told that this House is the proper body to determine this question. That is repeated, notwithstanding the fact that every Deputy outside the ranks of the Fianna Fáil Party has stated that this House is not only not the proper body to deal with this matter and to decide it, but that they could not conceive any body less qualified for that function than this House. Let us be quite frank about this. When this Bill becomes law and when this matter is decided and disposed of in accordance with the machinery to be set up under this Bill, it will not be decided and disposed of by this House, but by the voice and the opinion of one man. Do not let us have the pretence that this House is to decide on the facts—which are not before it— and that this House as a Parliament is to have the final voice as to how these moneys are to be dispensed.

Let us not be pretending about it. Let us expose all this humbug about this committee headed by the Chief Justice. Having listened to the debates for the last two days and having read the Bill, I make the suggestion in answer to the Taoiseach's statement last night that he would welcome suggestions from this side of the House as to the personnel of the committee, that a most appropriate committee to dispense those moneys should consist of Deputies Con Ward, Briscoe and P.J. Fogarty.

If the object of this measure were to attack the courts, to undermine their power, authority and influence, or to strip the citizens of the protection which the courts give, it would be the bounden duty of every Deputy to stand up and protest against this measure; it would be the bounden duty of every right-thinking man throughout the country to show the utmost indignation at this measure. But what we have really witnessed on the Opposition Benches so far is nothing short of a display of pharisaical scandal.

The Deputy and possibly other Deputies may be further removed from their school days than I am and perhaps some explanation may be useful and necessary. By pharisaical scandal I mean——

Is it necessary to explain what the Deputy demonstrates?

It appears to be so. Pharisaical scandal means that the malice of another makes mischief of what is harmless or even of what is good. Of all sins, I think it is about the meanest type, because in it there is the largest element of pretence and insincerity. If sins were represented by animals, I think that in the menagerie of sins pharisaical scandal would be represented by the fox because of his traits of meanness, subtleness and his generally despicable character. What are the facts here? About 30 years ago there was a remarkable unanimity throughout the country on the national objectives and a remarkable unanimity as to the means of achieving these objectives. Possibly, there was not such complete agreement on the means as on the objectives to be obtained. However, a fight was made and it was thought necessary to finance that fight and funds were raised in different ways in order to carry on that fight. Later, a big cleavage took place between those people who were most prominent in the carrying on of that fight and there was long and bitter disagreement. On account of that cleavage which took place and the disagreement which had occurred it was impossible to use these funds in the way for which they were originally intended. It was impossible to get agreement on the use of these funds. Then it was decided that legal action should be taken, and that promised to lead to legal wrangling and to the dissipation of these funds in the process of that legal wrangling.

Who has the right to dispose of the funds? It might be argued that the people who subscribed to them have the best right to do it. It might be argued that the successors or the original trustees have the right to do it, if there are really genuine successors of these trustees. Or, again, it might be argued that the funds could be disposed of by some sort of agreement between the subscribers and those who represent the original trustees. But there is one thing certain. Neither the subscribers nor those who claim to be the successors of the original trustees have the right to dispose of these funds in any way other than the purpose for which they were intended.

Hear, hear.

No agreement between the two could justify the funds being spent and wasted in any way other than the purpose for which they were intended. If there is one thing clearer than another it is that these funds were never subscribed for the purpose of making a lawyers' holiday. They were never meant to be distributed among a small number of legal gentlemen—and I speak with the greatest respect for the legal profession. I think it is perfectly plain to every man that these funds were not intended to be disbursed among lawyers.

This Dáil really does represent the Irish people; at least, it is the only embodiment, as it were, of the people in any group. Not only does this Dáil represent the people or, in other words, the subscribers to these funds, but here in the Dáil you have a great number who were actively associated, in the first years of the existence of these funds, with the purpose for which the funds were subscribed, so that no body of men could or should be better qualified than this Dáil to decide on a means of disbursing these funds.

All that is being offered to us here is an inexpensive and ready means, in the first place of conserving the funds for the purpose for which they were subscribed and, in the second place, of disbursing the funds in a befitting manner. I think nothing should have called for greater agreement in this House, agreement from every Party in the House, than that laudable object of using these funds for some major purpose among all the purposes for which they were originally subscribed. That is why I say that anyone who pretends that there is an attack on the authority of the courts, or that there is any danger to the citizens in this measure, is doing nothing more or less than giving a display of pharisaical scandal. So far as we have heard from the opposite side, we have heard what can only be described, in my sincere opinion, as pharisaical scandal.

The last Deputy's remarks were rather illuminating. The Deputy is, if I may use the word in a religious sense, a hypocrite. The original sense of that word was an actor, and I think one could say that the Deputy was not too well up in his part this morning and he did not strike me as putting his whole soul, so to speak, into the particular words he spoke. He says these funds were collected for a particular purpose and he thinks there is no better authority than this House to distribute the funds. He forgets altogether the purpose for which these funds are now to be set. The proposed object of the trust funds was never in the contemplation of those who subscribed them—I do not think there is any doubt about that. We are making a diversion to certain other objects, however laudable those may be— although that may be questioned—and we are definitely getting away from the original object of the trust.

The Deputy, who has just left the House, is also of the opinion that the Dáil represents the Irish people, is the embodiment of the people, and by a sudden jump he gets to the conclusion that the Dáil is the best body to distribute the funds. I do not know that the people, as such, had anything to do with the subscriptions to the fund; certain members of the community had. But the case cannot be made here, and it certainly has not been established, that the people who, by a majority, are carrying this measure, have any title, or claim any title, to represent those who subscribed.

The Deputy has asked whether there might not be agreement between the trustees and the subscribers. I do not know whether any agreement between the representatives of the subscribers and the trustees was ever sought. So far as I understand, the subscribers, or any remnants of them that there may be, are the last people to be thought of. We have not heard them introduced into this debate, in any event, even though the Dáil does embody the people and even though we may take it that the people as a mass include some of the greater part of those who subscribed.

The Deputy went on to make a further jump and he said that nobody could be better qualified than the Dáil to distribute the funds. I questioned that, and it has been sincerely questioned here. Any arguments we have heard in the House have been rather against the Dáil as being a properly qualified body to distribute the funds. The arguments against its qualification weigh more than the arguments, such as they are, put forward in an attempt to show that the Dáil is qualified.

One of the items one must think of in connection with qualification is not the mental character or the competence of the people here who are asked to enter on this discussion, whether they know and are sufficiently aware of the facts, whether they know about the claimants and how far they stand in the line of succession from the people who were the original trustees and, if they are, what is the case made to depose those people and set up this body which was gathered together on very many arguments and for very many considerations, but certainly without, in any election that I know of, the slightest word being said to the people that one of the tasks the Dáil would have to discharge would be the diversion of these funds from their old-time purpose to the purpose set out in this particular measure. The qualifications of the Dáil could be, and have been, challenged on many grounds. As to the pharisaical scandal that has been caused, the Deputy's effort was quite a gallant effort to make good out of what is evil in regard to what has been discussed here and evil in regard to the wider repercussions of the introduction of this measure or the arguments used in support of the measure.

Before I go back to one more effort to get this into its proper framework, there was one matter stressed here in the opening debates to which I should like to refer. It has now been withdrawn from its old-time prominence in regard to the arguments here, but it was reintroduced by Deputy Moran last night. On the question of delay, the Deputy was asked if he would state what were the reasons that affected his mind in casting his vote for the measure, seeing that this is an attempt to withdraw from the courts a particular matter with which the courts are ordinarily competent to deal. Instead of answering that point, although he threw himself into the argument as a person who could answer it, with a lot of irrelevancies we again got introduced the question of delay. He said with a rhetorical flourish: "This action has lain there for so long and might lie there"—there was this point of exaggeration—"for another 100 years". Another 100 years! It need not lie for another five weeks if the defendants would take the proper steps to bring the matter before the court and Deputy Moran knows more about that particular procedure than most of his colleagues.

No matter what track was pursued early on which did not lead to a satisfactory conclusion, the way is again open for the defendants to take the thing into their own hands and to bring it before the courts. I do not think there can be any denial of that. They can force the plaintiffs into court. Why they did not do it in the early stages, I do not know. They, no doubt, had advice in the matter—and I am certain it was good advice—and they took another course. They tried to get this action dismissed for want of prosecution. Mind you, the court, after studying all the arguments on that point, and faced with all this record delay which is supposed to have compelled the Government to introduce this Bill, decided in the end that they would not dismiss it for want of prosecution. In any event, it is certainly not for me to express an opinion counter to those offered to the defendants. All I am claiming is, as I claimed before, that defendants are not subject to such delay as a plaintiff might like to impose upon them. The case, as presented here on the first day of the Second Reading—and an attempt was made to re-establish that case by Deputy Moran last night—was that defendants are helpless in the face of adversaries of a plaintiff type who will not move. That is not the case, and I repeat that because, as I said before, it has been challenged.

The question of delay is then put out of consideration because there is no question of delay. Defendants at any time from six weeks after the pleadings and the issues were joined, had power to bring the plaintiffs to court. Why did they not do it? I can give one answer. The period occuring immediately after the close of six weeks from the end of pleadings would not be considered as sufficient time to get the action going. It was not for the defendants to say what time would be necessary or what time would be reasonable to get the action started. It was for the court to say, on an application made by the defendants, to bring the plaintiff into court. I hope my legal colleague opposite will corroborate that. I do not think it can be denied. He talked here, as the Deputy phrased it last night, as if a plaintiff could start an action and then stop his pleadings if he hopes to achieve a bargaining position and that the defendants are helpless in face of that. The Deputy must know that that is not a correct statement to make to the Dáil.

As well as not bringing the plaintiffs to court, the defendants have now, apparently, reached the point where they recognise that the plaintiffs have such a bargaining power that they are going to be paid their costs up to the date of the introduction of this measure. Why were they allowed to get to that position? Is it considered that their bargaining power is so great that they must be paid every penny of the costs they have incurred up to the date of the introduction of this Bill, because the background of that, as I tried to argue in a realistic way on Second Reading, on this section and on an earlier section, is that they have no bargaining power. In so far as bargaining power is admitted, it is an argument that they have a case.

Deputy Moran again makes a statement, which, as a general statement, might be passed over without comment but as a statement appropriate to the particular matters under discussion here was quite misleading. His attitude apparently, is that if any plaintiff enters the court with litigation and gets to the length of issuing pleadings, where there is a trust fund involved, the plaintiff, on going into court no matter how bad his case, is going to get his costs. Again I suggest that the Deputy knows that that is not so. The test is going to be whether the plaintiffs who are claiming have a bona fide claim and whether it is reasonable for them to make the fund incur the costs. Now we are asked in this House to accept this position, that these plaintiffs were bona fide. Of course if they were not bona fide they have no chance of getting their costs but it is not merely their bona fides that are in question. Deputy Moran will agree that if bona fides lapse, the right to costs goes but there has to be more than bona fides—is there a reasonable claim? Only if there is a reasonable claim will the plaintiffs get their costs, if they are defeated, out of the particular fund. Now we here are asked to say that these plaintiffs should get their costs. By doing that, the Government are asking us to say, (a) that the plaintiffs were bona fide in the prosecution of the claim and (b) that they had such a reasonable chance of success that the court would say: “We will give you your costs”. Now that argues for them the possession of a far better case than the Taoiseach otherwise presented to the House. His attitude to the House ordinarily is that they have no case and that nobody can think they have a case. They are not, he says, in the line of succession. Nobody could give them that and no body of any reasonable type could give a decision in their favour. Yet, that being his presentation of the case, to get the plaintiffs ousted from the court, he asks us to take the stand that the courts would give them their costs and we are asked to give them their costs.

The two things are incompatible. If they have no case, if their case in their representative capacity be as poor as the Taoiseach at times asserts, the Taoiseach ought to bundle these people into court without further delay and get the matter finished. Does Deputy Moran agree that on a matter like this coming before the courts in connection with a trust, the courts are not entitled to go any further than to say: "Not merely do we rule against these plaintiffs, but we have a trust fund, the old time purposes of which we think are no longer suitable in respect of payments out of the funds and we will establish a scheme for purposes as near as can be to the original purposes"? I suggest that the courts have full power to inquire into the old-time purposes—into what their reality was and their objects were—to find out whether there is any such purpose still in existence to which the moneys can be applied and, if not, to make a scheme of payments out of the trust fund for purposes as near as possible to the original purposes.

Does the Deputy suggest that that can be done in the present proceedings?

I say it can.

On the present proceedings?

Of course it can. The whole question of the nature of the fund is in issue, and the payments out of it. Remember that Deputy Moran is faced with this as the context of this case, that the plaintiffs would be discharged out of the action as not having a case and there are then only two parties left—the State represented by the Attorney-General and the old-time trustees or their personal representatives. Surely they can ask the court to make a scheme. I suggest they can. The courts are no new instrument. This position which has arisen is not novel. The courts have often to deal with this type of thing, where there are contestants with regard to a trust fund and where, in the background, there is an appreciation by most parties to the contest that either the original purposes have been satisfied or there are no longer any beneficiaries of the type suggested. The Deputy must know well that there are innumerable cases in which the courts have applied what is called the cy-pres doctrine.

Yes, but not in relation to the present proceedings. A special application would have to be made, as the Deputy knows.

Who would make it?

Somebody would make it at tremendous expense to the fund.

I will answer—the people who will be left in court. And the Deputy's hope and the Taoiseach's hope is that they are going to be the representatives of the late Mrs. Wyse Power, of the old-time trustees, and the State. Remember further—and Deputy Moran will agree with me in this—that such an application can be made by those who remain in court. I think such an application automatically arises, but it certainly can be made, and if it is made, the courts can have arguments put before them as to proper objects in substitution for the old objects. The courts will consider a variety of objects put before them and draw up a scheme. When they draw it up, they will take charge of it and will see that the money is paid out in accordance with the scheme they have settled. They will keep a supervisory eye on the distribution of the money.

That all arises when the case is over, with its attendant costs.

Let us get back to the costs. "With its attendant costs"—we are going to pay £8,000 already. That is what is proposed here. I have asked, and I have not yet got an answer, how much of that sum of £8,000 is to be paid to the plaintiffs, because if the plaintiffs' case be as bad as the Taoiseach makes it out to be we will save that in court. If the case be as bad as it is phrased to be—the Deputy knows very well that it is not and he is alternating between reality and acceptance of what the Taoiseach says, but I am accepting for the time being the Taoiseach's case: an insignificant group without any right of succession and no merits, will the Deputy agree that if these three things, or any two of them, are established, the plaintiffs will not get their costs? We will save therefore whatever part represents their costs, and I should imagine that the greater part of this £8,000 represents their costs because they are the only people who have incurred any costs to-day. They have put in a very long affidavit, with, I believe, many hundreds of documents attached, and they are the only people who, so to speak, have gone to any expense so far. If there is a sum of £8,000 involved in the way of costs incurred to date—I do not credit the figure and I cannot get anybody with any knowledge of these things to credit it, either, but suppose it be that figure—there cannot be a penny less than £5,000 represented by the plaintiffs' costs. That amount we can save if the action be as bad as the Taoiseach has said.

I am merely arguing these points which Deputy Moran does not want any argument about because he knows them to be perfectly correct and appropriate to this case. If they are not, I hope my inaccuracy will be pointed out, because we can then meet it, and it is in this House it should be met because we are now discharging a court function. That is what we are asked to do in this matter. This is nothing that has dropped from the blue upon the courts in respect of which the courts are inexperienced and would have to say: "This is a novel business. We have no answer to it. We never met the like of it before. We are without precedents to guide us and there is no experience which has already marked a path along which we can walk in order to discharge the functions given to us in connection with this matter". That is not the situation. The situation is that this will slide easily into many court procedures. There is plenty of experience, plenty of precedent, in connection with this type of matter. Why then are we taking it from the courts?

As I said before, I merely intervened on this section in the early stages. I sat and listened to the arguments thereafter. I had time to think about the arguments made here last night and anybody on reflection must come to the same conclusion as that to which I have been forced, that really the damage which is being done in this relatively insignificant matter may not of itself be of any great importance, but this must be quoted hereafter as a precedent. The Taoiseach's language is such that he obviously means it to be a precedent. He did not confine his argument to this particular case or to the special features of this case which make it unique or phenomenal. His attitude was quite general and the Deputy who has just left the House, Deputy Butler, went on the same lines. He spoke of the fund and said it was quite clear that the subscribers never desired that the fund would be used to make a lawyer's holiday. That is a very ancient jibe. If people really believe that the courts allow lawyers to plunder funds, we should set about recasting the whole court system, because it means that there is something rotten in the whole court system. That is only a jibe thrown in by laymen for a lay audience. But let me apply the phrase generally.

Are we to have it now, as a rule of our Parliamentary procedure, that if there is a trust fund and we begin to realise that the moneys of the trust are going to be squandered—I will accept the phrase—to be frittered away, by lawyers in court proceedings, we will on these occasions come in here, take the matter out of the court's hands, come to decisions on our own and pass the distribution of the fund over to somebody else? Is that what is intended? The arguments used were as general as that. I am quoting Deputy Butler, but the Taoiseach was in exactly the same mood. Is that what is intended, because that is what emerges from this debate? The arguments related not to this one trust fund but generally. If there is a trust fund, and if time is going to be wasted and the moneys dissipated, and in the end the fund brought to the point of exhaustion or very seriously depleted, then apparently it is to be the duty of the House, without hearing argument, or, at least, merely accepting the massed ranks, because possibly some argument may have been used in Party committee, to remove the whole matter from the publicity of the courts, from the reasoning of the courts, from a position in which publicity will be given to the arguments used before the courts, so that public opinion may know what is happening and finally removed from an independent judiciary.

This is a different type of trust fund from the ordinary trust fund.

Not a particle. The worst argument used yet was the argument of the Taoiseach to which Deputy Dillon referred yesterday— people are to be deprived of their rights because they are insignificant. I thought that was the meaning of a court system—the provision of a place to which all and sundry could have resort, no matter how poor, no matter how insignificant.

It was not used in that sense.

A person is mean, poor and insignificant and therefore she is a person we can remove from access to the court system, and we can bring the matter in here where a Party committee will mass and take away her rights, and, as I say, establish a precedent for taking away the rights of other people.

Progress reported.
The Dáil adjourned at 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 29th April, 1947.